I have been using DipTrace, and I do like it for it being intuitive. There is one thing that I really do not like, and I consider a fatal flaw. The fact that changes do not automatically propagate through the entire design. It is rather tedious and error prone when trying to update something. That aside, I can say that it was a package that I was able to pick up and have a board designed in under a week of an hour or so after work.
Sam, I have heard that SprintPCB is a nice package, though it was missing a few features that I was looking for in my search. It is one that I will be watching. I have heard many say that they particularly like some of the features.
Bill, I did actually look at that one, but it did not come close to meeting the things that I had laid out for what I am looking for in my PCB tools. There are tens of other packages that are out there, and while I do not minimize their value, they just did not meet what I am personally looking for. Thank you though for mentioning why you like you find gEDA appealing.
I missed any reference to gEDA which must be the first open source schematic capture tool. It's still available with PCB layout tool at
along with KiCad, which was mentioned. It was originally designed to run under Linux, but versions are availalbe that run under other operating systems.
Someone asked for Spice compatibility, and gEDA goes one better with it's own improved version of Spice - ngspice - which offers native digital and mixed mode simulation.
I've not used any of these packages for any serious work - I've downloaded them from time to time whenever I up-grade to the next version of SuSE Linux, and created the occasional schematic, but that is as far as I've gone.
I would add for ease of use Abacom's SprintPCB 6.0. While it does not have a full autorouter or a linked schematic input at $55.00 or so US it is a very powerful tool for doing up to 4 layer PCB's with auto groundplane on each layer. No limitaions on components or connections. The original board size limitation is 12 X 12 inches but I think that has been increased with the current version.
While not free, it is a little more than free but with real support. Not that you need much support as their slogan is "Just draw it". Footprint and component creation is a snap. Several other useful features like turning inported 274X gerbers into editable PCB's. This feature alone has save me when dealing with old inherited designs. Another is flotable bitmaped layers for dealing with scanned layouts that appear in magazines. I have used dozens of packages and this one is my go to package for cranking out quick and easp PCB's as well as some fairly complex designs. It even has the ability to output isolation type HPGL files that can be used to output to a CNC PCB router (you know. the PCB "Santa Claus" machine that you always say that you are going to build...).
I have done a couple of dozen board designs with the product and I can say that it is well worth the 55.00 USD (Note the program is downloadable from their EU site. This means that they will send you an invoice payable by PayPal and if you are not in the EU the EU cost is discounted by 19% (the VAT). That is how I arrived at the $55.00 US (49.9 euro -19% at the time I checked the exchange rate).
They have a companion schematic program splan7.0 also at 49.9 euro (see a theme here).
Definately worth a look. Demo (save inhibited) versions available for download along with free viewers as well.
The other free one is DesignSpark PCB. Looks very powerful. I think one can get up to 12 licenses for free. Sponsored by RS Components I believe.
If you need more power at a moderate cost I don't think that you can beat the full blown DipTrace package (900.00 or so for the unlimited version).
I believe that the next step up would be the entry level OrCAD PCB and Capture Schematic (node locked pepetual license) I think I was quoted something like 2500.00 for that but I have not used the OrCAD PCB package so I can not comment on that but I do still like Capture.
Link for SprintPCB, Splan7.0 and other cool inexpensive stuff.
P.S. I went looking for a low cost, run on any Windows machine PCB program when I could no longer get my favorite DOS PCB program (Tango PCB Series II+) to run on a Win7 machine. The only thing I miss is my libraries but creating components SprintPCB is easy.
I used Dip Trace for 2 years in my previous job. It is very intuitive and easy to learn. The autorouter that ships with the package is fairly decent but you can export your design to be routed with the powerful Electra autorouter. To simulate your design you can use the free LT Spice. The schematics and pcb pages are tabbed so you can easily go back and forth from sch to pcb and also they back anotate either way. In addition it has extensive component and footprint libraries and a very good component editor. Affordability is another strong point of this package, which offers a free version with limited functionality that can be upgraded to several versions depending on the amount of pins and layers that you need. Even if you decide to go for the more expensive combination of Dip Trace + Electra you will pay less than $2000.00 which is half the price of the cheapest high end EDA package.
There is a slice of the EDA tools market that provide free PCB tools. I often use PCB123 and PCB Artist offered by Sunstone Circuits and Advanced Circuits respectively. They both feature autorouting capabilities, Gerber and DXF import, Digi-Key real time linked BOM and libraries and the convenience of real time quoting and ordering plus DFM check. Recently they are offering assembly services that can be purchased also from the package menu. For being free EDA software, they pack a punch aimed at productivity. From the moment that you select a component in the schematic to the instant your DFM check gives you the green light you always know the overall cost of your proto in real time.
I will leave the high end tools for another comment, since I had to go shopping for one recently.
Ah yes, this is true, but you are also comparing a $4,000-$6,000 software against one that is free. So not a totally apples to apples comparison. Though, comparing SpaceClaim to SolidWorks/SolidEdge would be a more complete comparison. There you will find that each has their niche. SpaceClaim is much better for prep work for analysis. It is head and shoulder above SolidWorks or SolidEdge in this area.